Executive summary: the State of the Borough Report


Many of the inequalities insights presented in this report are stark and sobering. It may seem overwhelming to face these realities, but the purpose of this report is to face the evidence head on, with the intention of provoking deeper conversations and inspiring action. This is a national issue and will require big shifts in national policy, but communities in Waltham Forest have been trailblazers before and we must use this evidence to build on previous work and act with greater determination. This is just the first step in the Council’s goal of developing a new Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy which will reflect the everyday experiences of Waltham Forest residents.

“My experience of school is that it doesn’t prepare you very well for real life. I never could really understand how learning about Henry VIII would help me get a job. It meant that I switched off from school and got attracted to other things, which is what led me to get involved in gangs and crime.”

As a child in Waltham Forest, achievements in school, feeling included at school and the capacity to maintain a healthy lifestyle all differ drastically depending on the place, family and community into which we are born.

Inequality headlines:

  • In 2018/19, Waltham Forest had a higher number of fixed term school exclusions than the London average, in which young Black and Asian pupils were overrepresented. Overall, Black pupils were almost three times as likely as White pupils to be excluded.
  • In Waltham Forest, 28% of children receiving free school meals are of African or Caribbean descent, while only 17% of the Borough population is from this background.
  • The exam results achievement gap between boys and girls has widened in recent years, with boys falling behind. The gender gap of pupils who achieved a standard GCSE pass in 2017-18 and 2018-19 has doubled (in favour of girls) from 6% to 12% in Waltham Forest, whereas in London the average gap between the two genders remained stable at 6% (in favour of girls) across that time.

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“You learn to put a ‘white voice’ on, so you can fit in. I’ve changed my name on applications, so I sound less foreign. I know it is why I wasn’t getting interviews.”

From education to finding a job, from earning a reasonable wage to drawing a pension, there are some in Waltham Forest who face persistent and often insurmountable inequalities that affects the capacity to make a decent living.

Inequality headlines:

  • The gap in the employment rate between White residents and residents from a Pakistani or Bangladeshi background is 34.5%.
  • In London in 2019, 2.9% of all workers were in zero-hours contracts. However, this is the case for three times as many (8.8%) 16-24-year-old workers.
  • In 2020, the median hourly wage for men in Waltham Forest was 28% higher than women’s on average in comparison to 15% in London.
  • By the time a woman is aged 65 to 69, her average pension wealth is £35,700, roughly a fifth of that of a man her age.

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“The pandemic has affected some people worse than others. People from minority backgrounds know people talk about how the pandemic has helped create community, but the reality is that it’s hit the poorest people hardest, and this can only increase inequality.”

The likelihood of living well in comfortable homes, achieving good physical and mental wellbeing, plus the very length of our life itself is unfairly affected by identity and background, and where someone lives. Over just a few miles, there is a significant impact on life chances.

Inequality headlines:

  • A female baby born between 2013 and 2017 is predicted to live 6.8 years longer in the ward of Endlebury than her equivalent in Lea Bridge.
  • In Waltham Forest in 2016-2018 the rate of suicide for men was more than three times higher than for women (same as the national average).
  • Of those sleeping rough in Waltham Forest, the majority (80%) were men.
  • In London, only 3% of overcrowded households are occupied by White British people
  • The ethnic groups with the lowest health-related quality of life for people aged 65+ in Waltham Forest are known to be Gypsy and Irish traveller, Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities

“I have asked my son if he knows his rights if he was stopped and searched by the police. I shouldn’t be having that conversation with him, he’s not a criminal. But we need to know. Because he’s a target. And we shouldn’t see colour.”

Across the borough, certain groups are far more likely to unfairly face punishment, be victims of crime or harassment, or feel isolated from the rest of the community simply because of who they are.

Inequality headlines:

  • The rates of Stop and Search in Waltham Forest in the last year per 100,000 people were 82.3 for Black people, 59 for Asian people and 33.7 for White people.
  • Across Waltham Forest, Black young people are around twice as likely to have a caution or conviction than White young people.
  • Waltham Forest has the fourth highest rate of Islamophobic incidents across the London boroughs.
  • 75% of domestic violence victims are women. Alongside this, more than half of the young people within the Youth Offending Service have either witnessed domestic abuse or been victim to it.
  • Around 7% of Waltham Forest’s population do not currently have access to the Internet. The proportion is higher in some groups:
    • 36% of the elderly
    • 23% of individuals with chronic health conditions or disabilities
    • 16% of individuals on low incomes

“The people that make decisions don’t necessarily really understand disability. I’ve seen this on many levels. This reflects the disadvantages that disabled people have and it is a vicious circle because it also leads to poor decisions, lack of opportunities, barriers and discrimination.”

The unequal distribution of power influences every area of life and means that decisions are made without fair representation and that the opportunities to progress available to some groups are significantly inhibited.

This acts as a vicious cycle in that there is a lack of representation of certain groups in powerful positions which reinforces the lack of representation in decision making and leads to unfair advantage for some over others in Waltham Forest and beyond.

Inequality headlines:

  • In Waltham Forest Council, 59.6% of Chief Officers are White. 63.2% of Chief Officers are men.
  • Evidence from the Council’s Resident Insight Survey indicates that residents who have a disability are significantly less likely than non-disabled residents to agree that the Council takes account of residents’ views when making decisions.